You asked for it; here is the story. The relatively brief version anyway.
Ten years ago, when I began working at the jail, things weren’t bad at all. I loved going into work every day and we all got along for the most part. Everyone was eager to help me learn the ropes and I was soaking up their years of knowledge and experience like a sponge. The Jail Commander back then was a lieutenant deputy at the Sheriff’s Office. A guy whom I didn’t particularly care for, but he did his job, and I respected that. The Assistant Jail commander, the subject of this story, was a Corrections Officer who, from what I’ve been told by Corrections Officers who worked with her, kissed a lot of ass to get where she was. No biggie, so far I hadn’t had any problems with her at all.
It wasn’t long after I started working there that an incident occurred that caused a shake-up among the Sheriff’s Office employees. One of the deputies had gotten in some hot water and the Jail Commander left the jail to fill the D.A.R.E. Officer role. Thus began the downward spiral in the jail. For me anyway. And I know of several other Corrections Officers who came and went because they felt the same way as I did. For what seemed like the longest time, when the Jail Commander became the D.A.R.E. Officer, the Assistant Jail Commander became the Interim Jail Commander. In my opinion, that’s when her “regime” began. She later became the official Jail Commander; that’s when we saw even less of her.
Slowly but surely, over the course of the next several months work started becoming a place I dreaded going. It wasn’t the inmates, it wasn’t the job, it wasn’t even the long hours. It was the new Jail Commander. She let the position go to her head and completely forgot what it was like to work the floor. The “open door” policy that the lieutenant had was non-existent with her. She would go into her office and shut and lock the door behind her. She wouldn’t surface again until it was time for her to take a lunch break. Her lunch breaks were typically a couple of hours long. She justified these extra long breaks because she claimed that she had to take the inmate’s commissary funds to the bank for deposit. I don’t claim be be a genius, but I’m fairly certain that running by the bank to deposit some funds doesn’t take anywhere near an hour. Anyway, onto my next point.
Working in a jail setting there has to be some structure. Ways of doing things that minimize the risks and maximize the safety and security of the facility. Our new fearless leader provided very little structure, had different rules for different people (employees and inmates), and she certainly did NOT lead by example. I could go on and on about different things that she did or didn’t do to support my claim of her not leading by example. I’ll give you just a couple here.
For instance, we were extremely short staffed for the longest time (due to the high turnover rate that I blame mostly on her poor leadership) and she would occasionally have to work an area of the jail. There are three areas: Book In, Satellite, and Central Control. Book In is just like it sounds, that’s where newly arrested individuals are brought into the facility and processed. Satellite is the area of the jail we call “population,” it’s where the inmates reside during their stay. And lastly, Central Control. Central is the brains of the operation. All of the secure doors are opened by the Central Officer, the cameras throughout the jail are monitored in Central, and the main phone lines for the jail ring into Central. There are NO inmates permitted in Central, whereas the other two areas, there are almost always inmates present. Guess where she always wanted to work. Central Control. She did not ever want to work the other two areas of the jail. Let me tell you why I think she wanted to work Central when she had to cover an area.
As the Jail Commander, she was responsible for implementing policies and procedures. She was constantly coming up with new ways to micromanage the Corrections Officers and the way they completed tasks that had to be done daily. Instead of just giving the officers tasks to complete, she would give the officers the tasks and tell them exactly how to do said tasks. One example of this was cleaning supplies. The inmates in population had to have access to cleaning supplies to clean their living areas. When I first started working at the jail, we would put cleaning supplies in a couple times a day. We had routines that we followed. The inmates had access to the cleaning supplies. Was this good enough for her? Absolutely not. She implemented times when the cleaning supplies went into the pods and times when the supplies had to come out of the pods. Some might argue that if the cleaning supplies were in the pods too long, some of the items could be used as weapons. That theory was debunked a couple of times though. If an inmate wants to use a mop bucket or a mop handle as a weapon, they’re going to do it when they have access to these items whether they are in there for 10 minutes or two hours.
Another thing that became commonplace and exhibited a lack of leadership was her absenteeism when it came to inmate grievances. The former Jail Commander would walk around the pods at least once a week and talk to the inmates face-to-face. That kept the inmates calm for the most part, as they knew if they had an issue, they’d be able to talk to someone about it soon. She didn’t do that. Instead, she sat behind her desk with her door closed and had the Corrections Officers pass out grievance forms to the inmates to fill out. It doesn’t stop there though. Even after an inmate filled out a grievance form, she wanted the Corrections Officer to answer the forms as often as possible. You see, the form was addressed to the Jail Commander or her “designee”. She had LOTS of designees.
I’m really not sure how she held her position as the Jail Commander as long as she did. It was largely speculated and joked about, that she had to have had some dirt on someone somewhere. It seemed like the longer she was the Jail Commander, the less she actually did and the more delegating of responsibilities she did. The Sheriff’s Office even ended up hiring a Jail Clerk to help with the workload. Like I said, I’m not sure what the Jail Commander even did. I mean really, with all the Corrections Officers as her designees, a Jail Clerk to help with commissary monies, and a Classification Officer to assign classifications to the inmates as they were moved from Book In to population after court, there can’t be that many responsibilities left.
I do know that she wasn’t doing her monthly walk-through like the former Jail Commander did. He would walk around the Satellite area checking the cells for maintenance issues once a month. That responsibility quickly became that of her designee’s once she took over. And that task also came with more paperwork; she made up some binders for us to keep in the Satellite office to document things that needed repairs in the cell blocks. Which, by the way, didn’t take effect until there was an incident with an inmate slowly breaking out his cell window – to the OUTSIDE! Had she been doing her inspections like she was supposed to, the window shouldn’t have ever gotten to the point that it did. This inmate was one thin layer of glass away from having unmonitored access to the outside!
I can count on one hand the times I recall her interacting with inmates (aside from passing out commissary.) The one incident that immediately comes to mind was when we had an inmate being obtuse in D Pod. I’ll tell that story in detail some other time. But the short of it is, she didn’t know how to talk to the inmate, didn’t know how to act around the inmate, and stood behind – BEHIND – me as we went in. Not only was she behind me, she ended up spraying me with her OC spray. But like I said, I’ll tell you that story in more detail later.
There are a myriad of reasons she should not have been the Jail Commander, and quite frankly, you wouldn’t want to read about all the stories I have that prove why she was a bad choice. She was afraid of some inmates, especially Inmate Doe. She had a history of poor decision making; she had been arrested for OWI prior to working at the Sheriff’s Office. She wouldn’t lead from the front; often electing to sit on the sidelines while incidents were taking place. She very rarely, if ever at all, supported her employees in anything. It was a running joke that we could trust the inmates more than we could trust her. I could go on for hours, but I digress.
With the new Sheriff being elected, her regime ended. She was asked to either step down and become a Corrections Officer, or leave altogether. I believe she made them fire her and got unemployment. At least that’s what I heard through the grapevine anyway. She had to give up her take home car, her gun, and her comfy chair sitting behind that desk earning far more money than she was worth. Like I said before, I’m not sure how she kept that position as long as she did, but maybe there was some truth to the rumors. Maybe she did have something on someone, somewhere. If not, it was just one huge coincidence that when the new Sheriff came to town, she was ousted. And if you know me, you know that I don’t believe in coincidences!